Climate research is getting an assist from Google. The company announced it's rolling out the Climate Innovation Challenge, which will provide Google Cloud research credits to scientists studying the myriad ways that carbon pollution is altering the planet.
Google has a wealth of data and tools that can help monitor climate change. They include Google Earth Engine, which provides troves of satellite data over time, as well as voluminous public datasets. All of that data can help researchers suss out changes over time for everything from growing cities to disappearing coastlines. The new initiative will put all that data and more at researchers' fingertips.
Those working in higher education and not-for-profit research organizations can apply for the funding. Google will award researchers grants of up to $100,000 and give them access to its data analytics and AI cloud services like EE. Google added that it's working with the National Science Foundation AI Institute for Research on Trustworthy AI in Weather, Climate, and Coastal Oceanography and other environmental groups to evaluate applicants.
"We need to get smarter about the inevitable impact of our changing climate and how it will reshape our lives, supply chains, and business. Sustainability is a business-critical agenda, and we need intelligent technologies, leadership, and collaboration to drive industry transformations and reach a net-zero world," Justin Keeble, Google's managing director of Global Sustainability, and Emma Fish, Google's head of Global Public Sector Solutions, wrote in a blog post on Monday.
Google will also provide researchers with technical training and mentorship to help them get started on their projects, Keeble and Fish wrote. This isn't the search giant's first foray into helping monitor the heat death of the planet and the search for solutions. Last year, the company gave out grants to researchers through the Google Cloud Research Innovators program, which helped facilitate projects like detecting kelp forests through machine learning and analyzing agriculture crop modeling and water use with data from Google Earth Engine.
While we know the contours of how the climate crisis is impacting the planet and what needs to be done to address it (namely, not burning fossil fuels), this type of research can help fine-tune how we respond. Identifying kelp forests, for example, could help governments target their ocean conservation efforts given that seaweed helps sequester carbon. Scaling up these and other kinds of solutions will be absolutely vital to ensuring the world doesn't overshoot the 1.5-degree-Celsius threshold that's central to the continued survival of small island nations, coral reefs and millions with climate-dependent livelihoods.
"Nonprofits, scientists and organizations will be key in developing new research and innovations that will help us better understand how we can accelerate action on climate," Keeble and Fish wrote in the blog.